San Diego Padres: Bethancourt Shines on the Mound in Spring Debut

With his first outing of spring, Christian Bethancourt is moving closer toward earning a multipurpose role with the San Diego Padres.

From the Little League mound to the major league hill, Christian Bethancourt recently took a large step forward toward becoming the pitching utility man for the San Diego Padres.

On March 1, Bethancourt contributed a three-up, three-down inning to the Padres’ 5-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Using only 11 pitches, he induced a groundout to the third baseman and a pair of weak flyouts.

Equipped with a 96-mph fastball, Bethancourt began his relief appearance with an remarkable slider that fooled A’s shortstop Richie Martin. He returned to the dugout as poised as any other experienced pitcher in the major leagues.

“It’s weird that it doesn’t feel weird to me,” Bethancourt said, per padres.mlb.com. “It just feels like I’ve done it before.”

Although this was Bethancourt’s first pitching appearance of Spring Training, his experience on the mound stems back to his youth. He first emerged as a star of the Panama City team that reached the semifinals of the 2004 Little League World Series.

As Bethancourt turned heads as a 12-year-old, Brooks Kieschnick turned heads in the major leagues. As a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kieschnick’s 2004 campaign was the last time in the major leagues that a player split time between pitching and another position.

Thirteen years later, Bethancourt spent the offseason in the Panama Winter League. During his return to his homeland, he found success in his seven relief appearances.

Rewind to last season, and Bethancourt showed off his ability to play nearly anywhere on the field. Toward the middle of 2016, he faced 10 batters and recorded five outs. Although he gave up three walks, he held his opponents scoreless with just one hit while striking out one.

On top of playing 12 games in the outfield, he split time behind the plate, at second base and as designated hitter.

A Bright Future

For the Padres, the benefits of transitioning Bethancourt into a multipurpose role vastly outweigh the odds of success. He single-handedly provides the team with an eighth reliever, fifth outfielder and backup catcher. Not to mention, manager Andy Green has faith in the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bethancourt to eventually succeed as a thorough utility man.

“You look at a guy that’s got raw talent and real ability and say, ‘What can we do to put him in a position to maximize his ability?'” Green said, per padres.mlb.com. “This is intriguing. He’s still got a long way to go to make the club in this capacity, but this was a great step.”

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